The Big Idea – Questioning

The Big Idea!Never one to miss an opportunity to share good ideas, at an INSET day last week staff were asked to write down one successful strategy they have used to develop questioning.  This article is a summary of their responses.

Why questioning? As discussed in earlier articles (here and here) the more I think about and see outstanding teaching, the clearer I become about the fact that it is all down to 4 things – deep questioning, feedback, independence and challenge.


So, here’s what the fantastic teachers at DHS had to say about how to make your questioning brilliant:

  • When a student gives a really good answer, ask other students if they would like to ask that student a follow up question.
  • Leave a big statement hanging – to generate lots of thought and questions.
  • Give students time to think about their response to your questions – don’t expect an instant response.
  • Use the ‘Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce’ strategy.
  • Use the idea of ‘Think, pair, share’ to generate discussion between students.
  • Use a ‘Random Name Generator’ when asking questions.
  • Ensure challenge by using complex, subject specific terminology in your questions.  Do this as a starting point, but be prepared to break it down and build up by further questioning.
  • Have ‘Key Words’ on the board – and insist that they must be used when answering a series of pre-planned questions. If they are not, then students have to come up with ‘extension questions’ that would elicit these key words in a response.
  • Use ‘lolly sticks’ with student names on, pulled out of a glass to randomise questions. Buy here)
  • Have prompt cards with key terminology on them, to support students who don’t normally answer questions.
  • ‘The Perfect Answer’ – Ask a question, get 4 responses from students, then students vote for the best answer…..and then come up with further questions to ask about the answer and repeat the process.
  • Don’t leave your questioning to chance – plan what you will ask, how and when?
  • Have a ‘Challenge Question’ available to really stretch the more able.
  • Plan ‘Hinge Questions’ to use during the lesson. These are questions that assess key learning points of the lesson. Read more here.
  • Don’t let the first answer, however good, be enough.  Questioning is about talking.
  • Re-question at every opportunity.  Make questioning a genuine dialogue rather than just a chance to assess. It also models the dialogues we would hope pairs and groups will use with each other as we improve their independent learning.
  • Reverse answers – if this is the answer, what is the question?
  • Chain questions – Teacher asks a question. The student who responds correctly, then asks another question – and so on. If the teacher is not satisfied with the answer given, the chain continues, but they have to find out the correct answer for homework.
  • Give students the ‘stems’ for a question and then ask them to come up with their own questions e.g. Explain the link between…….
  • Use the learning journey poster to plan and scaffold your questions.
  • Use the questioning grid to get students to generate their own questions.
  • Use the ideas behind P4C to use visual stimuli to generate questions about their learning.
  • Get students to expand on answers from previous students to develop listening skills and challenge.
  • Create a ‘why?’ chain.  So for every answer a student gives ask another ‘why?’ question e.g. Q: Why do we need laws? A: To control people. Q: Why does society need to control people? A: Otherwise it would be chaos. Q: Why would it be chaos?
  • Question students on the mistakes they made.  What did you get wrong? Why did you make that mistsake? Do you know why it was wrong? etc etc.
  • Make sure you know what you want o know – and plan your questions accordingly.
  • If you using traffic light cards or ABCD cards, don’t just let students ‘get away with’ holding up their card. Question them about their choice of answer.
  • Think about how you will develop challenge through your questioning.
  • Ask a big question at the start of the lesson and tell students that you will be expecting an answer at the end of the lesson.
  • ‘The hardest question’ – Plenary activity. At the end of the lesson ask students to come up with ‘the hardest question about today’s learning…..’
  • Allow students to ‘phone a friend’ if they get stuck on a question.
  • Start the lesson with a visual prompt that encourages questioning.
  • Use the ‘Plenary Prefect’ strategy to develop student questioning skills.
  • Be relentless. Keep asking and asking and asking – and don’t accept ‘don’t know’ as an answer.


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5 Responses to The Big Idea – Questioning

  1. Marooney, Sue says:

    Brilliant as ever! Sue

    Sent from my iPad

  2. A great big yes to all of that, I’d add, have you read the excellent Brighton & Hove ‘Questions Worth Asking’ and Mathematicians might like my Bloomin Mathematics

  3. Pingback: Edssential » The Big Idea – Questioning

  4. Pingback: Deep Questioning | Class Teaching

  5. Candy says:

    What wonderful ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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